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Tokyo has so much to offer and so much to do. It is easily overwhelming. Whereas I usually take my first week to explore a place Tokyo’s sights just kept on going. I remember ending up in a hidden cocktail bar, a mexican rooftop party with 1 meter margaritas, spending a whole day going only to French places(?), visiting a store that only imported 2nd hand hiphop apparel, and throughout it all the best michelin star ramen. It just seemed endless, completely unrelated and incredibly fun. Six weeks went by in an instant.
Money wise Tokyo is expensive, especially for Asia and in some areas like housing and mobile and ok but not cheap for (incredible) transport and tickets prices. Superb food and drinks can be had for cheap. The quality and service for most things is top-notch.
Besides some large parks Tokyo is a lot of concrete and I had to look a bit harder to find green than I normally do. Finding a good place to run was also difficult without bumping into people. Though if you look for it there are a lot of serene quiet corners, temples and gardens. Cycling in Tokyo is easy, so consider renting a bike and explore a neighborhood or two.
Communication was never difficult, though often a bit awkward. In general Japanese will try and leave you alone or be polite and superficial. This all changes completely as soon as you start drinking alcohol or even sober when they find a common interest. I found Japanese in social settings curious and easy to speak with and at times students/young-japanese would come up to me and talk. Nobody will disturb you when reading a book or doing some work. People are are just incredibly polite. Socially in hang around mostly with expats. Since coworking spaces were expensive I went mostly to meetups to meet people.
For housing I’d advise to stay outside of the central places and near a subway line. I stayed in Kichijoji, which was 15min from Shibuya and Shinjuku, more affordable and less busy. Most people only spend a few days in this city and handle Japan by planning obsessively. Ask anybody about to go to Japan what their plan is and they’ll start drawing maps and timetables. I do think strongly that a longer stay in Tokyo is worth it and every week added will get you past the highlights and into unexpected places you’ll enjoy and remember.
Lastly: the subway stops at 0:00, do not miss it. Cabs are expensive (and the last subway is an attraction in its own right:)
Tokyo is unlike anything else you’ll ever experience in live.
Now go forth and eat ramen!
10 months ago
I would say that Tokyo is probably the easiest major city to transition for a Westerner visiting Asia. Infrastructure is incredible, the metropolis is immaculate no matter where you go, people are friendly and amenities/food/shopping etc are all fairly accessible. We've been many times and it remains one of my favourite cities in the world. For English speakers, the language is easy to adjust to because Kanji basically sounds as it is read. Food is phenomenal and where it sometimes lacks in variety it's made up for in incredible flavours and skillful preparation. There are plenty of places to work, Internet is strong.
My suggestion when looking for a place to stay is to look to some of the communities beyond the typical Shinjuku, Roppongi, Shibuya, Harajuku, Ginza, Ueno. Don't get me wrong, these places are all wonderful and a worthwhile but once you make the move away from them, you'll discover many wonderful cities within the metropolis with less tourism. You'll also spend less. Personally, I have always looked to stay on the Sobu Line during my visits. My favourite neighbourhoods would be Koenji and Kichijoji - both on the line. Also, honourable mention to Shimokitazawa further South.
If you haven't experienced Japan yet, you should go. Tokyo is unlike anything else in the world and the country at large is phenomenal. You'll love it. Look no further.
1 year ago
I spent most of the trip in Tokyo staying in part of suginami city called Ogikubo. This was really just a vacation for me; I spent most of my time shopping in Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ueno. These places are immense, dense, vibrant and crazy-wealthy. Ogikubo would pass for downtown in almost any definition of a city, but in Tokyo it is sometimes called a suburb (although still part of the 23wards). I also traveled out if Tōkyō: 1 day in the temples in Nikko, and 1 day in Fukuoka for Nakasu and Sumo. I love Ogikubo: the barely-one lane roads with multi family surrounds is both quiet and urban at the same time. All of Tokyo, not just Ogikubo is cleaner than any western city. After seeing the other side of that equation in months in Latin American cities, it was an honest surprise to see a huge city that Is far more clean than those from my home country. Some things are cheap (coffee, humble/normal food) others expensive (cabs/jr, fashion). In attire and customs, you see shades of formality and expressiveness at once that feels both more stodgy and more informal in various ways. Just different, really. Ogikubo exemplifies quiet/ luxurious living to me, and more generally perfect urban density. I do wonder if any other parts of the world I will see will tend to have such small, walkable streets and that much density in a still serene but more affordable form. My apartment was the first story of a converted house, about 125m2 - apparently worth about $1.5m... 1m too much for me, and only somewhat bigger than ideal.
1 year ago
Really fun city. I think the easiest big city in Asia for westerners to feel comfortable in. People are generally pretty friendly on a superficial level, quick to smile, laugh, and help. Unfortunately, becoming real friends with Japanese is much more difficult and most cannot speak English. Store staff are mechanically polite like robots, which is better than rude, but also a bit weird. A bit pricey and gets more expensive after a year of residence (after you get taxed based on previous year's salary, same for health insurance fees). You can drink in public at any time, though it's not really a drinker city like some European cities are known for. Clubs and music events are expensive unfortunately, though quite a few options. Great public transport system, can just be a bit confusing with all of the different names. The street layout is completely chaotic, which can be fun but also disorienting. You will often have no idea which direction you are facing, like you are in a giant maze. You can find most major international food options but not in great numbers. Obviously, Japanese food is everywhere though. It's technically on the water, though odds are you will live more inland. Still, you can reach the bay within an hour or so and an actual beach further south in Kanagawa within 90min. Japan itself has a lot of cool things to check out as well. Best time of year are spring (cherry blossoms) and fall (cooler, leaves changing cooler), though there are a series of summer festivals that start in August that are incredible (people dress in traditional clothes, food vendors all over, tons of fireworks, etc.) and they have a lot of Christmas lights and displays in December. Dating for men is not bad, just don't come expecting every woman wants you. As mentioned before, most cannot speak English and they're somewhat conservative overall, not big on casual sex. You may have an advantage in the dating pool if you're not an English teacher, since most western foreign guys there are and that job is known for not paying that well, and definitely do if you can speak Japanese near fluently. Some negatives besides those already mentioned: it's really humid and mold develops quickly, there are A LOT of crows that creeped me out and cicadas that are VERY noisy in the summer, finding the right specialist doctor that also speaks English can be tricky, the friends you make from other countries come and go constantly, a lot of guys with issues come here (socially awkward, major womanizers, right wing nuts, escaping something from their home country, stereotypical anime fanatics, etc.), Japanese men are not anywhere near as friendly as the women are and are more likely to be xenophobic (pretty much like every other country), living space is really small for the price, vegetable selection is pretty limited and expensive, a lot of food products contain soy, subways get really overcrowded during rush hour, popular areas get really overcrowded on weekends, it's not that English friendly especially dealing with contracts and anything government related (there is a free foreigner help service that can help you via phone and usually whatever government stuff you're dealing with will have at least one person on hand who understands English and can help you).
2 years ago
Nomaded here for a month Aug-Sep 2018. It's perfectly ready for digital nomads. I won't go into details about why Tokyo is a great place to travel to, you know that. For nomads: there are many coworking spaces, especially in Ginza area (personally I recommend Ginza Hub or Co-Edu or Yahoo Lodge which is actually a free coworking space). Almost every place I've checked has daily membership options too. Starbucks is almost everywhere and locals work in cafes all the time. You can also get a very decent 4g sim as a foreigner from Mobal. The prices are okay-ish, Paris or Singapore level. Many people don't speak English, but that wasn't a problem for me at all: people are friendly and trying to help even when I didn't ask them. If you're feeling lonely, there are numerous international meetups happening every single day. I didn't notice any hostility from locals towards me, only curiosity; made some friends. The situation is different if you want to immigrate to Japan, but we're not talking about it here, right? I'd definitely recommend Tokyo for digital nomads!
2 years ago